white plastic bag on white table
Special Topics,  Thinking

3 Ways to Painlessly Pooh-pooh the Plastic

There’s no denying that excessive use of plastic is catching up with us. Frontline photos from oceans and beaches around the world have brought that home, time and again. Floating islands of trash and fishing-line entangled shore birds can make the problem seem overwhelming, fostering helplessness and inaction.

According to the Pew Trust website the problem may be even bigger than initially suspected. “Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced, approximately only 9% has been recycled and an estimated 60% has been discarded, with some ending up polluting our rivers and the ocean. The amount of plastic entering the ocean is projected to double in the next five years.”

While I admit to an occasional preference for the dramatic, I know that it’s more often small efforts repeated over time that add up to real progress. And while I don’t have any big answers for our global plastic problem, I’m happy to share some of the small, mundane changes my family has made in the recent past.

Powerful, Plastic-focused Words

Words have power. They often last far longer than expected. “Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever discarded is sitting in a landfill somewhere.” I’m sure the pile I pictured is larger than the one for which I’m personally responsible but it was significant. And when I added the cast-offs of immediate family members it was major.

When it comes to problem-solving it’s not always easy to sort through marketing hype and delivery methods to come up with a product that’s closer to environmentally neutral but bamboo toothbrushes seem to fit the bill. I like them a lot.

Starting with the toothbrushes may not have been an accident: I’ve always been a big coffee drinker. It’s my favorite vice. In fact, I have a travel profile that says, in part, that I’m in search of a cup of coffee that tastes as good as it smells. (I’ve come close but not quite hit the bullseye. Yet.) I’ve tried grinding my own beans, using a French press and a variety of drip pots and other systems. Needless to say, the convenience of individual coffee pods held some appeal but it was outweighed by the image of adding plastic pod rings to the landfill.

Good Coffee is an Added Bonus

I avoided all things k-cup for years. Happily, I’ve found a company that ships its compostable pods in environmentally-friendly plastic-free packaging. Both the shipping box and the pouches containing the coffee pods go right into our garden compost. An added bonus is that the coffee is good — and there are several different kinds. (Favorite Husband and I like the bold.)

While we’re hanging around in the kitchen, I should probably mention that I like to batch cook and freeze smaller portions of the entrees for future use. Uniformly-sized plastic containers are an easy solution but not one we wanted to continue to use. Home-recycling of glass containers works fairly well for soup — but the irregular sizes and shapes take a toll on freezer space. Eventually I found these great, rectangular glass food storage containers that remind me of Grandma’s fiesta ware. The only color on the these is on the tops, around the snap-on rims.

But Wait, There’s More

As I write this, I realize we’ve made lots of other earth-friendly choices but I’m starting to feel like an infomercial. Speaking of which, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and while I posted them for your convenience, I need to tell you that I may earn a small commission on purchases that result from this post.

And although those online commissions are tiny they are mighty. That $0.27 would be cool —- it would tell me that somebody else has decided to take a step toward painlessly pooh-poohing some of that pesky plastic.


  • Barbara Parcells

    Thanks for the tip on where to get the glass food storage containers. That has been one item on my “get rid of plastic” list for a while. Also, when I had a coffee maker that did individual cups, I found a reuseable K cup that you can fill with your favorite coffee and then wash and reuse. Yes, it’s plastic, but it is reuseable. I gave up and went to a little 4 cup Mr. Coffee that suits me better and passed on the reuseable cup to a family member who is happy with it.

    • Andrea

      You’re a better woman than I am — I couldn’t deal with those little refillable cups. And we compost like crazy. Interesting the many ways we all go after the solutions, right? Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Andrea

      I think living near the ocean has made me more conscious. In fact, I think my first change was to add something that stops micro fibers from escaping the clothes washer.

  • Lore (like "story") Raymond

    I appreciate your focus on this topic…and it’s made me rethink using plastic even MORE.

    In the late 90s, I learned to love plastic and buy lots of it while living for 5 years in Honduras. It was a Godsend to keep things from spoiling and the bugs away.

    Slowly I have replaced plastic in the kitchen with glass, pottery, or metal.
    I did stop using K-cups.
    And now I shop at an open-air farmer’s market and put everything into my cloth bags.

    Again…room to do more!

  • Christin

    I try skip plastic as much as possibl in our household and my teenage daugthers are with me on this. Our city just started garbage sorting on a really high level, so we have to divide all garbage into 7 differents piles. This makes you so much more aware of houw much plastic you actuallly use every day.

  • Debra Oakland

    I’m with you Andrea. We use glass containers as well as the plastic one’s that we have had for years. Living at the ocean we see more than our share of plastic on the beaches. It’s beyond sad. People need to wake up. We are all watching nature shift back to some normality since Covid19. We compost, take our own bags to the grocery store…or we did until they said we could not recently. Just one action creates change.

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